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New America Foundation Examines How Community Colleges are Using Technology & Online Learning to Enhance Access

New America Foundation’s February 2015 report examined how technology and online learning at community colleges may enhance access to postsecondary education. The report looked at the characteristics of community college students and how they compare with students in other sectors of higher education and the common reasons students stop their studies and drop out.

The report found that community college students are more likely to be over the age of 24, have one or more children, work more than 20 hours per week, attend part time, have income less than $30,000 per year, and commute to school. The report also presents short case studies—Jackson State Community College in Tennessee, Frederick Community College in Maryland, Rio Salado Community College and Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, Kentucky’s Community and Technical College System, Sinclair Community College in Ohio, and the University of Central Florida—that reveal how community colleges are using technology and online courses to improve content delivery, student support, credential attainment and transfer.

The report concludes with suggestions for federal, state and institutional policymakers, including:

Making changes to financial support to meet the needs of today’s students, such as providing year-round financial aid, allowing students to take a mix of competency-based and seat-time courses, allowing adult students to be eligible for state financial aid, and providing emergency funding for students;

  • Easing credit transfer;
  • Creating better data on online students to better understand outcomes;
  • Providing faculty with professional development opportunities, particularly around delivering online and hybrid courses;
  • Provide opportunities for faculty to create and adopt Open Educational Resources; and
  • Making publicly funded research available to the public so that faculty members at community college can gain better access to the latest research on pedagogy for online, hybrid, and traditional courses.

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